To a large degree, what makes Burdifilek so successful in designing retail spaces (and therefore in such demand) is their ability to let the client’s brand, which typically means its products, do the talking. Not some misguided attempt to turn a retail space into a theme park of attention-grabbing gimmicks and cutesy “experience” generators in the hopes of attracting passers-by, like a circus sideshow barker. Instead, Diego and Paul know how to make every aspect of the design work together in concert while simultaneously taking cues from the products, collections and, by extension, the brand itself.
And understanding the brand is itself quite a skill, because a “brand” is a sticky concept. I heard it said once that a brand is everything that everyone says about you after you leave the room. But I also like the flip side to that assertion: a brand is also what people think of you before they enter the room and, in the case of retail design, see your logo. It is no surprise that many of Burdifilek’s clients are the types who eschew in-store graphics meant to elicit Pavlovian-style brand recognition, and instead want their space to reflect the quality, sensibility, and performance of the products.
Ironically (and whether they want to admit it or not), this mastery has meant that Burdifilek itself now has a brand. I know this because of our Best of Canada Awards competition, which I have been involved with for nearly two-thirds of its existence. During the judging process, projects are assessed anonymously, meaning any indicators of the firm name have been removed. But even so, I’ve witnessed more than one occasion where a judge has said “Oh, that must be a Burdifilek project!” and what they are looking at is a retail or hospitality project where every surface is appointed with a rich, textural materiality, and there is a seamless integration of beauty and functionality. The store delivers a sophisticated atmosphere: a variety of lighting techniques enhances the dramatic effect and sets the tone for the space; moments of pause emphasize the product; and the store becomes an “immersive platform” for the brand where every element builds the brand identity, rather than relying solely on graphics to do the storytelling.
A thoughtful balance of simplicity and refinement is evident throughout Burdifilek’s portfolio, and this type of “brand” is one I am sure many firms aspire to. I am equally sure it is why so many of their projects have been awarded a Best of Canada, and why I have no doubt I will be shaking their hands onstage and passing them more plaques in the near future.